The role the Dog Warden Advisory Committee played in the legislation was referenced, public safety was the first agenda, then breed specific legislation that was appealed. Responsibility for enforcement was raised as a question during the panel’s time period.
Recommendations from Law Director Adam Loukx were next, a new chapter would be in place as a result of discussions with the Dog Warden’s office as to what portions would be enforced. Concerns were raised by the Humane Society on enforcement and the penalty aspect as far as Toledo’s laws being consistent with state laws. Loukx said there was nothing unusual about changing legislation. Concerns about due process in the neutering law was one reason for some of the amendments which created more of a reliance on court action.
Some of the other changes were making special tags or microchipping as optional not mandatory. Loukx said the penalty aspect would be tweaked a bit more before the final version is presented to Council.
It was stated for the most part the changes passed were not being enforced, that citations are being done under the state code. Dog Warden said she can not cite under the municipal code unless there is a contract allowing them to do so. Peter Ujvagi said Lucas County Prosecutor has stated the County Dog Warden does not have the authority to enforce municipal laws unless a contract exists allowing her to do so, so the Ohio Revised Code has been enforced but not Toledo’s municipal code.
Brown said she doesn’t understand why we need a dog warden if they aren’t going to enforce the laws we have. The police department was adamant that they did not want the additional responsibility and they only had two applications when they were seeking an animal control officer. She said she doesn’t understand how the Humane Society got involved in this as far as responsibility.
Ludeman wanted John Dinon said the new ordinance covers two parts of the ORC, one part pertains to animal cruelty which would be under their enforcement. They want some authority clarified to cite the animal cruelty aspect, it is not the Humane Society’s mission to get involved in the public safety aspect, only the animal cruelty aspect. Ludeman raised some questions concerning typos in the proposed changes, it was said those would be addressed.
The legislation on tethering was a piece of that was not included in Ohio law, so the Humane Society needed legislative authority to enforce that. Brown thanked Dinon for clarifying.
Collins said a large number of cities that have animal control officers, he feels we need the police department to be able to enforce the laws as they would any other law. Ludeman said they have a higher level of enforcement for animals but not human beings, all that time and they still don’t make the average citizens safer now. Collins agreed.
Steve Serchuk one of the dog warden panel members said that the Law Director changed the language as far as neutering making it based on a conviction. He said he understands the due process but these are people that have not obeyed the law. Loukx said due process is 90 percent of the change. The taking of the dog and spaying/neutering it without due process would be an Achilles heel to this ordinance creating a challenge. He said the dog doesn’t need to be held, but if the court ordered it then the person would be out of compliance. Loukx said there may be unintended consequences, but the due process concern was a priority to be addressed.
Serchuk said spaying and neutering was an important tool, he’s concerned that amending it with the due process language that the tool will be eliminated. Ujvagi said there is a new program through a grant where pit bulls can be neutered, spayed and chipped for $5.00 – LINK. He stressed that state law was still being enforced.
Changes are gong to be presented to be discussed at the next Agenda Review.
Next they moved on to the contract. Collins wanted to know what the city paid annually to the Dog Warden, it was said $100,000 with the vast majority related to overtime. Each call is a minimum of 4 hours pay. Loukx said the old contract expired at the end of last year. It ends June 2010, he said there were three major provisions that are different. After the Dog Warden closes the old contract tied it to their collective bargaining agreement, it was about $130 nights and $150 holidays. Under the new contract it goes up $155 flat rate during the week and $205 on Sundays and holidays plus mileage. Under the old contract two sections of the law were enforced, vicious dogs and the rabies charge. It was $10 a charge, under the current agreement only four of the prohibitions would be enforced by the dog warden, those call for $25 a summons in one category and $10 per summons on another. A kenneling fee has been added to the new suggested contract of $20 a day for every day required over the Ohio Revised Code.
Collins felt that police operations should be responsible for the cost on the enforcement side, that should come out of their budget with the exception of the kenneling.
Collins said most of the calls come after hours, is there a reason why they don’t have an afternoon shift. Ujvagi said under the previous contract their costs were just about what they were incurring.
Did the city pay for each call even if it was within the four hours, Lyle said if they returned home when the second call came out it was a new call, if they were still out in the field, she believed that was not a separate charge, Ujvagi confirmed that. She said they were tied to their collective bargaining language, she did not have a copy of it with her, Collins said he’d like to see a copy of that since he felt that language was unique. Collins asked if they had an itemized list, she said they did but she didn’t have it with her, he requested to see it.
Ujvagi said the police have a key and access to a special area to put dogs. Collins asked how many times that has been done recently. Lyle said there have been situations where officers have taken dogs to the facility then called them to meet them at the facility. (I’m guessing the four hour charge was levied).
Ludeman asked if expanded hours was sought, Loukx said it was but it was not done because of the collective bargaining agreement with staff of the Dog Warden. He had additional questions on the overtime fee, he said you can’t find wages like that in the public sector. Dinon said that is significantly higher than what the Humane Society pays. Ujvagi said they have a labor agreement in place, they can’t violate that, it is something they will be talking about during the next bargaining session, but at this time those terms and conditions are set. The County is not making money on this, it just covers what the contract calls for.
Collins said there are days where they are billed over $700 a day in overtime calls. Collins wanted to know if the employees are paid that, Lyle said some of it goes to PERS and FICA but the majority of it goes to the employee. Lyle said if a deputy went out on three billable calls, they would be paid for three calls, no matter the time frame. Dinon said it’s up to the county the time frame, it’s local jurisdiction, the Ohio Revised Code does not state a time frame. Dinon said the whole county needs coverage from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Ujvagi said this is something that they plan to discuss but he can’t give a commitment to what the outcome will be. He said Lyle has made vast improvements and changes, but there are only so many things within their control. The $20,000 standby fee is one that includes the bill for the pager, cell phones, billing time and the amount the deputy gets to wear the pager. The new contract goes above and beyond what they experienced in the past, they estimated these costs.
The current ordinance is at $60,000 but it’s based on being half a year in and having no track record, Loukx said it could be more, it could be less. Steel felt they needed to get a better handle on this as far as estimating costs.
Questions then took place concerning dog bites from licensed dogs. Ujvagi said it was difficult for them to address the fourth amendment, Collins said a dog bite is a crime and the dog should be able to be seized if the dog is visible. He said that would be an issue that would have to be interpreted by the prosecutor. Lyle said the Dog Warden could not remove a dog if it is licensed unless there is a natural disaster. Collins said if the dog is used as a weapon it should be considered an instrument and should be able to be seized.
Loukx said he would not presume to tell the dog warden what her duties are under the law, but he said the law department could assist in issuing a warrant so the dog could be seized. Ludeman requested the budget and actual cost for Dog Warden services from the past two years as well as what has been spent so far this year. He also asked how a call is handled after 4 p.m. to a location such as Holland. Lyle said they have contracts with other municipalities, she was going to provide Ludeman with the costs. She said if they take a call from the Sheriff’s office for an injured dog outside of Toledo, they take the calls but where there is no contract the Dog Warden pays for the overtime costs.
Lyle cited the example of when the contract with Oregon expired, deputies when called told Oregon they would not take the call after hours, they would address it during normal business hours unless it was felt to be a unique situation. Ujvagi pointed out that the ORC does not require a time frame.
Collins felt we need to move in the direction of getting our police department involved in this. He said he was not comfortable or ready to enter a contract with the dog warden’s office.